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[personal profile] jendavis
Title: Come Undone
Fandom/Pairing: The Avengers, Clint Barton/Phil Coulson
Spoilers/Warnings: Is there anyone who hasn't seen the movie yet? Well, if not, this is a fix it. Eventually.
Rating: R
Summary: It was supposed to get easier, afterwards.

Previous Chapters: DW // LJ // AO3

DW // LJ // AO3


Fuck.

Fuck fuck shit.

Phil's sitting up, every nerve tuned into the sound of the front door slamming, but he doesn't stop listening. The apartment is quiet, now, in the wake of Clint's exit.

Clint was gone in so many ways that for the first time in his life, Phil didn't even know where to start.

Breathe. Just breathe, damn it.

He's on his feet, struggling his clothes up again, and makes it to the window before further realizations seep in.

One, his pain medication's worn off completely.

Two, he can't see him. There's no telling where he's gone.

Three, he's in no shape to go searching, and has no idea what he'd do if he caught him.

Four, God, he reeks.

First thing's first. His cell's in the bag with the rest of his gear from the hospital, but the battery's probably been dead for days. He rummages through the bag until he finds the painkillers, pours himself some water from the tap and downs it fast, ignoring the suspicion that if Clint's-

If he's whatever he is, right now, he could've fucked with the meds. But it seemed to have come on suddenly, maybe he hadn't had time to prepare.

And he could've killed him outright, preparation or no. It's something to hold onto, at least. Phil picks up the phone and dials Fury's number. His hands don't shake. He reminds himself this was always a possibility.

"Phil?"

"Barton's been compromised." He hadn't been this terrified the last time he'd had to say it. He also hadn't been caught with his pants, literally, around his ankles.

"Again?"

"Still. Again. I don't know. He just left, and his eyes were blue, like before. Came out of nowhere." He takes a breath, lets it go. It'll probably have to come out eventually, but it'll be easier admitting the likely cause once he's washed it off his skin. "I've got no idea where he's going or what he wants."

"Shit. Okay. I'm sending Romanoff your way to escort you to a safe-house."

"No. She should be out looking for Clint, and besides. It would've been more convenient for him to kill me before he left."

Fury sighs, long and drawn out. He knows which battles to pick. "All right. But I need to know what you've got on hand if he decides to come back."

He's going to pass out, he's sure of it. He just needs a minute to breathe, but he can do this. The gear closet, out in the hall, seems untouched, still fully stocked. "SHIELD issue sidearm, plus my M9." If it comes down to it, there are two boxes of Clint's explosive points; once activated, all he'd need to do is throw them with enough force and they'd do some damage, but he doesn't mention it. Speaking, right now, he just can't manage it.

He's strategizing the several different ways he could kill Clint using his own field issue, and trying to hang onto the fact that Clint's unarmed. It's the nightmare scenario all over again, but there are still dozens of ways it could play out. The worst ones all start out with Clint having a weapon in his hands when they find him.

He needs to not think about it, but taking his old M9 out of the case doesn't allow him that luxury. He's dizzy by the time he's brought it back to the kitchen table and he sits down, heavily. Breathing doesn't make the room stop spinning.

"For what it's worth, it doesn't look like he's armed." And I am.

"All right. Romanoff's on her way," Fury confirms. "Three hours. I need you to sit tight, stay by the phone, and wait for her. I know he's your guy, but, seriously. Don't get it in your head anything stupid in the meantime."

"Couldn't if I wanted to," Phil manages; adjusting his position only barely stops his back from screaming. "Call me when you know anything."

"You too. Keep me posted."

---

He allows himself three minutes before getting up and heading back to the bedroom. Well aware that he's technically burying evidence, he opens the window and straightens the sheets on the bed in the room that had barely started feeling like home before everything went to hell. He leaves as soon as he's done and wanders the apartment, taking inventory and relearning the paths between the kitchen and living room that he hasn't really seen in weeks.

The shower eases the ache in his back, or maybe it's just the painkillers kicking in again, but standing up straight enough to shave takes enough out of him that he has to lie down for a minute, afterwards, on the couch. He tells himself it's more about not having to fix the bedding again and less about what the bed means, now.

The gun's on the coffee table; he stares at the ceiling instead, makes a game, when he can, out of counting down the time before he's due to take his antibiotics. They need to be taken on an empty stomach, not that it's a problem with his stomach in knots.

When he checks the clock in the kitchen, only an hour and a half have gone by.

By the time Natasha finds him at the kitchen table an hour and a half later, he's fought off two panic attacks, enumerated every single fuckup he's made in triplicate. The glass of water in front of him isn't even sweating condensation any more. It's mostly gone untouched, because twice now, reaching for it, he'd picked up the gun instead. It doesn't matter that both times, it's been habit, the usual need to put it back in its place, but the contortions needed to put on his holster won't do him any favors. He can't get sent back to the hospital, not with Clint gone like this, and if he had to choose, he'd rather have his earwig in place.

Natasha takes the seat across from him- Clint's chair- and waits until he looks at her. "How're you doing?"

"I'm displeased," he replies, and either her sad smile's painful to look at, or he just can't differentiate one point of misery from another any more. She leans across the table, trying to keep his eyes on her; he hadn't even realized he'd been staring at the gun again.

"I need you to take me through it. What happened?"

---

"If what Agent Barton is suffering is a- forgive me, but for lack of a better term- standard aftereffect, it hasn't hit me, yet, but to be honest, the data we've had to work with is limited." On the screen, Selvig's eyes are worried, but they're not blue, and right now that has to be enough for Fury. "The only neural imaging they've been able to analyze is my own, which isn't anywhere near a representative sample."

"It is what it is. I understand. And I mean no disrespect, but I'm going to have to ask you-"

"To recuse myself, so to speak," Selvig winces, but nods. "I understand. Seeing as how this is quite outside my forte anyhow, I think the experts will be quite relieved to have me out from under foot, so to speak. Shall I prepare myself for secured containment?"

"On-site security's been alerted to the situation, but you're better off in the labs than in the brig." He doesn't mention that if Selvig had been granted direct access to SHIELD's data banks, they'd be making quite different arrangements. "In the meantime, keep at it. A rather large amount of strategy is currently hinging on the neuro team's findings."

"Director Fury, please understand... assuming they'll be able to come up with useful readings,an actual workable assessment is a very long shot-"

"Yeah, well," Fury shrugs, before signing off, "our next closest long shot is literally millions of light years away."

Maybe longer. Dr. Banner hasn't yet gotten a fix on Asgard's location, and without it, there's no telling if there's been any inter-dimensional activity that could indicate whether Loki might've escaped back to Earth. And while that's the doomsday scenario du jour, it's only the worst by a hair's breadth. Even if he's not back, his handiwork is, and it doesn't even matter if it's deliberate. Intentional or not, an assassin of Barton's caliber out roaming the streets under Loki's influence is a serious threat.

Romanoff knew Barton better than anyone, maybe even Coulson, and she'd cleared his return to active duty, and Fury hadn't had any compunction following her lead regarding enforcing his psych evaluation, but the fact remains that he could've made a different call. Sitwell and Hill are smart enough not to mention it, but that's all on him.

It's not often that Fury second guesses himself, and other than his personal taste in Barton, he's never doubted Coulson. But he'd ordered him to go to his gear closet and load his old M9, and he'd listened to him try to keep his shit together on the other end of the line, and now he's wondering.

He'd made a bad call, with Barton. He's just hoping he hadn't made two.

Another minute goes by, and there's still no word.

---

Natasha probably thinks that he hasn't answered her because he's still trying to get himself back under control. He'd managed it- mostly, or maybe just enough before she'd arrived. It's actually the hall closet that has his attention.
If he'd rummaged through the ammunition and medical kits and Clint's spare bowstrings, he could've had the signal booster up and running and his earwig in place. He could be hearing everything that's happening in the field, or hear that nothing's happening, yet, or that it's already over.

Natasha would tell him if it were, though, and he really does need to stop digging up things to worry about if he's going to be any use at all.

He drops her gaze, recites it to the table.

"Everything was fine. We'd come home, I crashed out for a while, and he was fine when I woke up. Better than I'd seen him. We talked for a bit, and... ah. You know." Thank fuck he's talking to Natasha right now. If he's stumbling this much with her, it's anyone's guess how well he'd be faring with Sitwell or Hill, someone who didn't know him this well. "One thing led to another, and..."

Natasha frowns in puzzlement, wanting to confirm what she's already thinking. "You had sex."

He wonders how she manages to hold the accusation out of her tone.

"We did, and it was... fine," he frowns, hearing himself. Fine. For having so little to tell her, he could really vary up his words, and the irritation's welcome, almost energizing. "But afterwards, it changed. Almost right afterwards, he got up, got dressed, and when I looked at him, his eyes had-" become the nightmare I've been having for weeks, he doesn't say. "They'd changed. Blue like they were. And then he was gone."

"Did he say anything?"

"Nothing at all. Dead silent." He flexes his fingers on the tabletop. "No goodbye, no anything." He'd walked out of their bedroom with no more awareness than a stranger passing by on the street, all because Phil had put it off, hadn't taken the time to make sure Clint was really all right.

"Do you have any idea what brought it on?"

Phil snorts; his suspicions are too ridiculous to mention, even for them, and Natasha's fully capable of putting two and two together. "I was kind of hoping you'd be able to fill me in on what's been going on with him." And here comes the admission. "He and I hadn't quite gotten around to talking about it."

Natasha stands up and grabs his glass, taking it to the sink and dumping it out before refilling it with ice water, obviously needing a moment to straighten out her thoughts. When he accepts it from her, she frowns. "How long have you been sitting here?"

"A while. I'm fine."

Whether she actually believes him is anybody's guess. "Let me know if you're not." She goes back to the fridge and grabs herself a beer before sitting down again. "How much do you know about the fight?"

"Fury gave me some broad strokes, and the details I've got are pretty much what we talked about when you all came to visit at the hospital."

"I'm afraid there's not much more I can tell you. We talked a little about it after I. After I thought I'd knocked Loki out of him. On some level, he'd been aware of every move he'd made, but he'd just been coming up, then, and I still don't know how much of it he's managed to put together." Her face is calm, a little too impassive. She's holding something back.

Even knowing what it is, he doesn't want to ask. "How was he, Natasha?"

There's a hint of reproach in her eyes; it's not a surprising sore spot, given her history, but they're not talking about her. "Angry. Guilty. Ashamed."

"Sorry, I-" He doesn't even know what he's apologizing for, or who he's apologizing to, but she cuts him off with a glare, nearly manages a smirk that she's not quite feeling.

"When he came out of it... he needed something to fight. I thought if I'd left him in that holding cell, he would've gone up against himself, so I let him out." She shakes her head. "I should've been more careful."

"It was a good call. You guys saved the world." Phil assures her, before her reason for mentioning it dawns on him. "If I didn't see this coming, there was no reason to expect that you would. Besides. This isn't anyone's fault but Loki's."

Natasha brightens, suddenly sitting up in her seat, and Phil's just been had.

"Exactly. Which is why you're going to go lie down and get some rest. It's Loki's fault, not yours, and sitting here stressing your injuries over it won't bring us any closer to fixing this."

"Resting isn't likely to produce any better results."

"I don't imagine it feels that way," she allows, nodding at the gun on the table between them. "But morning's coming sooner than you think, and we'll have work to do."



Chapter 7

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